Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Former NFL QB explains why criticisms of Justin Fields, potential 49ers draft pick, are ‘bogus’

Apr 7, 2021 at 10:26 AM--

No one is questioning Justin Fields' athleticism. Some question the former Ohio State quarterback's ability to transition from the college game to the pros quickly. Mark Sanchez recently joined The Pat McAfee Show and explained why Fields' ability to learn an NFL playbook might not take as long as some might be anticipating. Maybe all of his skeptics, who want to find ways to bring the quarterback down, are wrong.

"For Justin, this guy, Dr. Goldman, he's a sports psychologist; I talked to him yesterday," Sanchez said (h/t to Jordan Cohn of 95.7 The Game). "He has some interesting information on how he evaluates players — all players from all different sports, OK? Since 2012, this guy's interviewed and given basically like a mental aptitude test on an iPad [to] 6,500 athletes. Professional athletes, not just this average Joe walking down the street. These are like ballers, OK?

"They have a learning efficiency rating on there, so it's basically like this acquisition — like, how many reps does it take until you get it, until you understand something — and then your recall. Like, once you have it, can you bring it back and use it, right? That's basically what they're trying to figure out in that part of this test."

This could be significant for anyone who feels a rookie quarterback might need significant time to sit and learn a playbook and scheme as complex as head coach Kyle Shanahan's. Fields is among the strong contenders to be drafted by the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 3 overall pick. The team has said it plans to keep quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the upcoming season and have him start Week 1 regardless of who is drafted. The future, however, will likely be that top pick.

A lot is riding on the selection. Shanahan and general manager John Lynch may be putting their jobs on the line with this organization-defining decision. If they get it wrong after surrendering so much draft capital, it will likely set the franchise back for years.

Mac Jones of Alabama is the favorite to end up in San Francisco. Fields and Trey Lance of North Dakota State are widely seen as the prospects with more upside, though, due to their better athleticism.

"Justin Fields, the guy who supposedly can't go through his reads, doesn't have great work ethic, all this bogus stuff, he scored the highest. Ever," Sanchez continued. "He scored the highest that they can rank him. He scored a 130 on it. Mahomes was like a 108. Josh Allen was like a 108. Over 100 is good.

"Bro, he was a 130, OK? This kid can learn. Essentially, it would equate to like an average playbook that's not that complicated; he'd learn it faster than anybody. A very complicated playbook, to him, it would be like an average playbook. This kid was in the top one percent of 6,500 pro athletes, OK? This kid is bright."

Added Sanchez: "This kid has the toughness, has the grit. I'm just blown away that his stock's not higher."

You can watch and listen to the entire podcast below. The portion with Sanchez discussing Fields begins at about the 43-minute mark.

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